Engineering and Workshop Hand Tools
Tested and Reviewed by Fred-in-the-shed
Updated 28th March 2013
New Colour Coded Screwdriver set for easier
When you have a tool box full of different
screwdrivers and you are looking for a Philips screwdriver it is so
easy to pick up a pozidrive one by mistake and then bugger up the
screw head. Unless you have eagle eyesight it can be hard to select
the correct tool. Or if you are working with a helper it can be hard
to describe the tool you need. That's why I love these colour coded
screwdrivers. Red for flat head (plains slot) blue for Phillips
(cross slot) and
green for Pozidrive.
These Draper pro quality screwdrivers have all the features like
the hex nut below the handle, on the larger sizes, so you can apply a spanner for extra
force. The set has the most useful sizes and lengths to fit the 3
most common screw types.
Draper Expert 16 Piece Engineers Screwdriver Set
Colour Coded - For faster tool selection
The right tool for the right job!
Hacksaw test - Fred finds the best
|The humble hacksaw is one of the most important tools
in any workshop. Even if you have all the latest expensive machinery
you will always need a hacksaw.
The basic hacksaw is a simple and
effective tool and its performance is mostly dependant on the quality
and tension of the blade.
The standard size for a hacksaw blade is 12 inches and they come in
various teeth sizes to suit different materials.24 teeth per inch is
Softer material like copper requires a coarser blades with less
teeth, like 18 teeth per inch. Hard materials like stainless steel
prefer 32 teeth per inch.
|I have used a bog standard Draper hacksaw for many
years and been quite happy with it. Recently hacksaw blade technology
has improved and a rash of new hacksaws have appeared with new
comfortable ergonomic handles and devices for increasing the tension
and angle with new super tough bi-metal blades.
My friends at a prestigious
engineering workshop have been comparing a range of old and new
hacksaws for me and have been very impressed with the new models
and the bi-metal blades.
|This is a Bahco 319 hacksaw fitted with a new bi-metal
blade. This hacksaw is very comfortable and has a concealed but easy
to use blade tension adjuster.
This is a no-frills mid range hacksaw suitable for DIY and
professional use. I lent a range of hacksaws to my friends at Oxford
University Engineering and this one came out top due to its rigidity
and comfortable grips.
the best bi-metal hacksaw blades
Powered Hacksaws - The Scorpion!
The Scorpion from Black & Decker has been around a few years now. It's 3 easy change blades do
the job of a wood saw, hacksaw and jigsaw. Only problem - the
Scorpion is a bit of a Porker at nearly 2kg, so unless you have a
lot of cutting to do it may be easier to use a hand tool.
The Scorpion performs the function of a jigsaw with the added
bonus of being a powered hacksaw. Ideal for DIY and great for
people who don't have the strength and/or fine hand skills to use a
The Black & Decker Scorpion is an effective tool but could be more
robust. The other disadvantage is that it uses specialist blades that
are expensive and can be hard to get. A more sensible option is
reciprocating saw (Sabre Saw), as they use standard fitting, easily
Reciprocating saws with Universal blades
With the right blade a
reciprocating saw can be used for cutting any material (and pruning
The cheap set of mixed blades above are amazing
value and I use them a lot.
The Ryobi one+ battery can also
power a range of over 20 cordless powertools
Tools on test - best wire stripper and crimper
I have owned and thrown away many pairs of wire
strippers over the last 20 years and have been on a mission to find
the best and most reliable tool.
Automatic wire strippers often start off working
well and then just when you are doing an important job they fail and
mangle or cut the wire. Many times I have had to fall back on using my
simple plier type strippers to get a job done.
Currently I am trying a new set of automatic
wire strippers, crimpers and cutters from my old friends at Draper
Tools. I will be giving this tool a lot of use on many types of wire
and reporting back. So far so good and I am very impressed with the
accuracy of the stripping.
As you can see from the image to the right, I was
able to take off the thick outer protective plastic insulation and
then strip off the very thin coloured insulation from 4 audio and
video cables. This very delicate work was achieved in seconds and
with great accuracy.
for more snow- buy a shovel for car and home now!
Dremel Pro for intricate polishing/cutting/grinding
Dremel has been the market leader in powered
multi-tools for many years. The mains powered hobby tool has been
improved several times and now has an incredible range of accessories.
To stay ahead of the game they have
released this new 10.8 volt cordless tool with the superior Lithium ion
It comes with charger and
accessories in a sturdy case and impressed me with it's power. I also
tried a couple of the cheaper copies of this tool and always go back
to my Drem due to the quality of the battery , its reliability and
level of control.
This is one little tool every home or workshop should own.
I use my Dremel for drilling very small holes, polishing metal,
removing rust from small components, grinding out wood in recesses
for locks, sharpening tools, and a host of other jobs
The Cordless Dremel is handy for quick little jobs outside of the
workshop. If you don't really need a cordless one get the cheaper
mains powered version as it has more power and will always be ready
without needing a charge. Or if you have a workshop and work outside
too get both as the tools accessories are the same for each.
Dremel is made by Bosch of Germany
Dremel 7800 multipro cordless
Now with Lithium ION battery
use the link below to compare prices my partner site a tooled-up.com
buy any Dremel tool or accessory online
Dremel Tools Accessories and Tool Kits
Buying an individual tool for your Dremel in places like B&Q works out
very expensive and it is cheaper to buy a whole new kit of tools
rather than individually. When you buy a kit or Tin of Dremel tools it
will usually say 100 pieces or 250 tools but in fact you will get
about 10 tools and 90 little grinding discs or polishing pads. Some
people find this a bit misleading and are very disappointed.
The question then arises? should you buy the genuine Dremel accessories or
the cheaper copies from companies like Rolson?
To test the difference I bought a cheap Rolson accessory pack and was
quite pleased with it. The tools fit the Dremel and seem to be as
The Rolson kit contains 150 pieces and includes a very good range of
The main drawback to these budget price packs seems to be the poor
packaging with boxes that either hold onto the tools shaft too
tightly or not at all and boxes that you cant open without
everything flying out. If you can put up with this and transfer your
accessories to another box then these cheap kits are worth
getting. See the links opposite to compare prices and specs.
talking of specs.... if you use a Dremel type tool make sure you have
good safety glasses as bits of material tend to fly off when you are
grinding , cutting and sharpening.
original or copies at half the price?
Multi-purpose VDE pliers for Electrical Work
These Draper Ergo VD pliers have 7 functions and are highly
insulated for electrical safety. The functions include 3 different
wire cutters, a crimper and pattress screw cutters for those M3 and
M5 screws that hold sockets in but are often too long. There is also
a wire looping device so you can nicely loop wire to place around
The pleirs are very well made and have a new ergonomic shape that
make them comfortable to hold for those tricky little moments.
Full time professional electricians will have a range of pliers
but if you are short of tool box space or are not a full time sparky
then these pliers will serve you well.
Check price of Draper Ergo VDE Pliers at another Fredshed partner
Red and Yellow Pliers are specially insulated and certified fro
These new Draper ones have 7 functions to cover the most common
Ratchet Spanners save time and effort
These Draper expert spanners have a clever little
ratchet mechanism built into the ring spanner end. This means that
nuts can be moved very quickly with short movements of the spanner.
At about £10 each they are not cheap but will save you so much
time. If you are a pro this could mean bigger profits and certainly
The only downside with ratchet spanners is that they will be less
robust so don't use them for tightening or loosening really tough
nuts- i.e. not suitable for high torque situations.
Approved by my testers at Oxford University Engineering and also
BJ Autos - (Barry and Gary in the shed round the corner)
Now available with pivoting heads
Bosch IXO Battery Powered Cordless Screwdriver
Breaking news - IXO 4 now available
Also New Select Model with 12 bit
I have tried dozens of cordless screwdrivers and this one is exceptional.
It is so small and comfortable due to the use of small but powerful Lithium ion batteries (3.6v) This
was a breakthrough in
cordless tools and gave the Bosch IXO
a Golden Shed Award.
The Bosch IXO comes with a range of bits and a drop in charger.
The drop in charger and small size of the tool make it ideal for
workshop use. This tool is now being copied by many manufacturers.
After 5 years use I am still impressed with my Bosch IXO and the battery
is still going strong.
The Bosch IXO has a LED torch built in which is especially useful for
working in cupboards and lofts. The IXO3 comes with an angled head.
And now there is the IXO 4 with a more practical charging base and
optional angled or offset heads.
As with all low price DIY drivers it does not come with torque control
but you can buy an adapter for this.
New in 2012 the Bosch 3.6v Select cordless screwdriver
is similar to an IXO but solves the problem of loosing or not being able
to find the right size screwdriver bit.
When I first saw this model I almost dismissed it a a
gimmick but after testing one in my shed I have been won over by it. The
selection of the bits is made easy by an illuminated magnifying glass
viewing window and the selection mechanism is fast and secure.
My first concern was what happen when a bit wears out
or breaks? can it be changed easily?
The answer is yes as you can jsut pull the bit forward
from the chuck and insert a replacement.
One of my Bosch IXO's has lasted since 2006 so I would
expect the Select to have a long lifespan too.
Slightly larger than an IXO but with 12 bits in an easy to select
Snap on Tools - best ratchet screwdriver
Snap On are American made tools that are the most
expensive and the most highly sought after workshop tools around.
The "big deal" with Snap On is the lifetime warranty
that persuades many auto mechanic to part with hideous amounts of
money for tools. This excellent ratchet screwdriver is donkeys years
old and belongs to my friend Leo. If it EVER broke Snap On would
replace it.- without a quibble, and if you stamped your feet they
might also give you a big girly kiss on the bottom!
At £40 plus vat I would think so too!
However, a SNAP-ON tool is more likely to get nicked than
break so keep this in mind! Snap On tools ARE super duper quality but
I think the prices can only be justified if you are seriously loaded
or use the same tool all day - every day.
The gear box boys at Renault Formula 1 Racing use many Snap
On tools, but they also use other brands such as Wiha, Draper and
Britool. When I visited the Renault Formula One workshops I was
pleased to see that the technicians used tools from a wide range of
companies including some old but now obsolete British tools.
My tip for any young mechanic is to look around,
don't follow the herd and buy EVERYTHING from "the man on the van".
Tools like Draper Expert will probably last your working life and if
they get nicked by some gippo you might be able to afford to replace them. Wiha tools from Germany are not as expensive and in my opinion equal
in quality to any other brand.
(now in black)
Classic Snap On combination spanner
Best Quality Files - a workshop essential
|The engineering file is another essential tool for a
workshop and they come in a massive range of shapes, sizes and cutting
The main problem with files is that the wooden handles are
often vibrated off over years of use and can become annoying or even
A new range of files is now available with top quality moulded soft
touch handles that are comfortable and strong.
I am currently testing these files to see how durable they are and
will report my findings in due course.
After extensive use I can report that the new Bahco
files with the soft touch handles are rally good and seem to be very
Files are one of those tools that require a lot of
effort to use so you owe it to yourself to get the best.
This set of 5 Bahco files covers most applications
and have holes in the handles for easy hanging above your workbench.
Adjustable Spanners- and Pump Pliers - tested and reviewed by Fred
Milligrip - Quick slide adjustment
Battery powered Black & Decker Auto wrench
The adjustable spanner is in a way, a "bodgers tool" but we all need
one occasionally when that special spanner goes walkies or we don't
have a full set. (Are you one spanner short of a full set! )
The adjustable spanner is also a plumbers favourite and
an essential part of any workshops toolkit. (Though a well equipped
workshop should not need to use one too much)
Two new designs for quick adjustment are now
One has a manual mechanism which
requires you to push the jaws for rapid
and accurate adjustment. It is a well made tool and does not slip.
The Black & Decker Auto wrench is heavier and
powered by 3 AAA batteries and can be operated quickly with one
The British designed Milligrip is lighter and is adjustable in 1mm increments which is ok unless you have a
rounded off nut. An imperial sized version known as the Amerigrip
- jaws will not open once set
- precision jaw setting in 1mm steps
- fast one handed operation
- soft touch, non-slip handle
- precision manufactured
- made from chrome vanadium
The 25mm Milligrip version
OR IF YOU HAVE BIG NUTS
buy the 32mm Milligrip
This is a British Invention! use my links to
purchase and support this website and British Inventors.
OR IF YOU HAVE REALLY BIG NUTS!
Adjustable spanners are ok up to a certain size,
and them cost a fortune.
Their cousin the adjustable pump plier is an
essential tool for your box and one of the most tried and
tested is from Knipex of Germany
Water Pump Pliers are the easiest and cheapest option for dealing
with large nuts
BJ Autos Headington Oxford
|Meet Brian and Gary, proprietors of BJ Autos, the
local garage I trust to look after my cars.
They have also tested and reviewed many of the tools for me that you
see on this page. After a lifetime of work they are hard to impress.
They have been in business at their Margaret Road workshop for over
20 years and have serviced and repaired all of my vehicles
including a Subaru 4wd turbo, Toyota Supra, a Mercedes van and a VW
Golf VR6 to name a few.
They are honest, competent and are well equipped with everything
including a star wars light sabre - BJ Autos- let the force be with
Pound thru or chisel screwdrivers from Draper and Wera
Toughest and Best Simple Screwdriver
Pound Thru Screwdrivers
If you need a screwdriver that you can abuse a bit,
perhaps hit with a hammer now and again to move a tight screw then look
for specially reinforced pound thru screwdrivers. Another name for these
wackable screwdrivers is chisel drivers.
This top quality screwdriver has all the features like
soft grip, a nut on the shaft so you can put a spanner on it -AND best
The shaft runs right through the tool and has a metal
cap on the end.
If you do need to give this screwdriver a bit of a tap
with a hammer * it will not break or get mashed like most screwdrivers
* within reason - this is not a cold chisel
If you want a decent set of normal screwdrivers with
Stubbys in each of the 3 main types I can recommend the set below.
The best Allen keys
Specialist Allen Keys and Sets
I use hex (Allen) keys a lot and get well
annoyed when I can't get enough purchase on the tool and end up
skimming my knuckles or having to tap it with a hammer.
These top quality German tools are amongst the best I have used
but are pricey and can be hard to find. Wera and Wiha are both
German companies who make top quality specialist Hex keys.
The best hex keys have a ball end so that you can even remove the
bolts from an angle where access is restricted. These ones also have
a magic ring that clips into the bolt and holds it if you want to
lift it out from confined spaces.
For general workshop use I like the Allen keys
with a big T grip handle and having them in a rack on your bench is
also very helpful.
For mobile use the folding sets are best as you
can use the storage compartment as a handle to get more grip.
p.s Although not strictly correct I prefer
to call these tools "Allen keys" Some people, (especially
Americans) call them "hex keys" - sounds a bit geekish to me, so I
will stick to Allen Keys
or use the links below to see tools from my
partner site tooled-up.com
see the widest range of Hex keys available online including single tools
Best Socket sets
|Socket sets are essential for anyone working with nuts
and bolts and come in a range of sizes and qualities.
This old socket set belongs to my friend Ken
and has had decades of use. It still functions perfectly and Ken loves
it. It was made by Draper who are based in Southampton. I don't have a
lot of use for socket sets nowadays but I do own a nice 26 piece
Hilka socket set that I have had for 10 years and can thoroughly
If you start off buying a good quality set then it should last your
lifetime. You might wear out or lose a few of the popular sizes but
you can easily replace them individually.
The current equivalent is the Draper expert
set, as recommended by my Engineer friend Dangerous Dave Mountain.
Draper are known for making good quality tools at reasonable
prices. If you cant justify buying snap-on tools then this is the next
The new Draper Expert sets have the advantage of the Hi Torq system
to grip your nuts just that little bit tighter. (which is nice)
Cheap Angle Grinders?
The best Angle grinder?
Though I am great lover of top quality innovative
products sometimes cheapo tools are more appropriate- (especially
when you're skint). For cutting and polishing metal or cutting stone
and slabs you can't beat the ubiquitous Angle Grinder. I bought this 580watt
tool for £10 in Woolworth's 5 years ago and can't believe how good
it is for small jobs. It also came with 2 discs (worth £5
at least) and spare motor brushes. This model was made by Powerdevil
similar models can be still be found online from £15.
Coming soon -
New Innovation for Angle Grinders
One common problem when using an angle grinder is run-on, this can
be dangerous when you have finished your grinding and want to put down
the tool. If the blade is still spinning it can jump around and cause
an injury or damage to materials. The new Metabo angle grinder stops
spinning almost immediately the switch is turned off and I will be
testing and featuring this angle grinder soon.
Tool Maintenance Time
WD 40, 3 in 1 Oil and PTFE based Teflon lubricants
If you want your expensive tools to last longer and work
efficiently then it is important to give them a bit of TLC and
lubricate them before putting them away.
I have used 3 in 1 oil to lubricate bike chains and WD40 to prevent
rusting, since I was a child. The maker of these excellent products now
have a new, 21st century lubricant that even beats 3 in 1 oil as it
contains PTFE. Some people mistakenly think that WD40 is a lubricant but
it is actually a water repellent. It is great for spraying on wet
electrics and for freeing up rusty nuts and bolts but it is not a good
long term lubricant.
I keep a can of this spray close to my automatic
garage door so I can regularly lubricate its many hinges. I also keep a
can in my garden shredder and use it to lubricate and protect cutting
tools and especially the shredder and hedge trimmer blades.
PTFE contains teflon and stops the lubricant drying
out. The leading brand of this product in the UK is GT85 and this
formula is not only made in the UK but it also has a Lavender scent! How
British is that!
buy 3 cans and save £££s
Which is the Best Glue?
As a self certified master bodger I have been using all sorts of
glues for over 40 years and have come to realise that you cant believe the
manufacturers claims on many of them.
Most glues are only good for limited applications and these are what they
demonstrate at shows and on the adverts. What they don't tell you is that
the glue may be virtually useless for most things you buy it for. So
remember with glue there is no "one size fits all" you need to chose
carefully for the material and job you have to do.
"Super glue " is an example. If you want a fantastic glue to stick your
fingers together or a cut on your head, then superglue is the one. If
you have something wooden that has split - forget it. If I do need to stick
something small and plastic together then I use the Bison superglue Gel, as
it does not dry so quickly and gives you time to position things accurately.
Superglue is best for small components with a close fit.
Also many glues come in applicators that will cause the glue to dry up
and have a short shelf life. The best way to extend the life of your glue is
to make sure you squeeze all the air out if it whenever possible. Gorilla
superglue has a neat little pin in the cap to help keep the nozzle clear- I
wish other glue manufacturers would do this.
I am a big fan of Araldite glue and have used it for over
30 years. However sometimes I can't be bothered to mix it up so often
I use Unibond Extreme repair glue which is very reliable and
squeezes from one small tube. It is ideal for quick easy small repair jobs
to plastic and a wide range of materials.
Best Glue to
repair wooden garden furniture
Recently I have been looking for a
strong glue to repair wooden furniture that is kept outside, in all weathers. Gorilla glue is
an amazing product that expands to fill any gaps and claims to be
waterproof. My repaired wooden furniture has survived 3 years now and so has
the concrete Lion head that I glued back onto a statue. Gorilla Glue also
made a dedicated wood glue that has a neat built in adapter and
anti-clogging device. The specialised wood glue is not as waterproof as the
normal Gorilla Glue which is totally waterproof and meets industry standard
So far I am impressed with the result and will
conduct long term tests to see how strong this glue is compared to my other
Fred's Favourite Glues